Monday, April 28, 2008

I Wonder....

I've decided to reinstate, in an official way, in my classroom tomorrow, the weekly practice hitherto known as "Trivia Tuesday."

This was something I used in my first year at Malvern, and it worked well. I think it's high time it came back. Why?

Well, aside from the fact that it uses alliteration (which I've decided makes everything "fun"... Masterpiece Monday, Faith-Sharing Friday. The boys always try for Wacky Wednesday, a day dedicated to Homestarrunner, but I just can't make the theology stretch that far, darn it)... Aside from that, it gives their young minds a chance to percolate, let the truths of the Bible, or the Face of Jesus they are coming to see more clearly in the gospels, start to shine. The mind can only take so much "information" - it needs space for the more important "formation" of character. The stuff has to trickle down you
see, from the head to the heart. There must be time for some mental gymnastics where they can toss and flip these concepts around on the rubber mat of their minds to see if they are tough enough, durable enough, as strong as they believe they are right now.

So "Trivia Tuesday" is a chance to pop an anonymous question on anything theological, from angels to anger, demons to Desperate Housewives, into the Basket o' Queries. Then we take 10 minutes at the end of Tuesday's class to try and get some answers.

Wouldn't it be cool if parishes did this? And you could come early to Mass and have a little Q & A with the padres? Some parishes, I've heard, have an "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Catholicism But Were Afraid to Ask" night. Brilliant. And here let me give another
shout out to Fr. Roderick at the "Daily Breakfast" podcast on sqpn.com. His "Peculiar Bunch" segment does just that, and it's brought alot of clarity to alot of people.

This idea struck me today, by the way, because I felt like I shut a kid down in the interest of "time" (whatever THAT is). In the hastiness of the moment, I was getting through a lesson instead of getting through the lesson, if you know what I mean.

I think giving teenagers the chance to be heard and have their questions addressed head on is better than just cramming stuff into their heads with the hope that it's available later when they need it. So let the Trivia begin! And of course, it'll be anything but trivial. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Doodling in the Diner

Well, there's nothing better than a post Mass, Sunday brunch in a local diner with the family; we're in NY with the inlaws. Throw in some blank placematts and a couple pens and you are golden! Can anyone translate the Latin? PS - this was Felicia's Little Diner near Wallkill, NY (I recommend the 3 egg special. And they butter the toast. Isn't it nuts when they don't butter the toast?) An old fella at the diner bar was amazed at the size of the family, and we had to tell him there were 5 siblings missing! Yes! Big families are back, and we're taking over the world!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Catholic Nerds Unite!

OK, I'm just going to come out and say it.

"Hi, I'm Bill, and I'm a Catholic Nerd."

That's right. The Few, the Proud, the Laity Who Know What an Encyclical Is!! We are the Catholic Nerds and we're PROUD of it!!

If you can complete or concur with ANY of the following phrases, face it, YOU ARE A CATHOLIC NERD. So celebrate it! Join our illustrious group on Facebook if you dare, and you'll find love and affirmation, and hopefully some inspiring conversations and connections to boot (I love saying "to boot" at the end of a sentence).

So take the Quiz:

1. Deus Caritas Est refers to...
2. December 12 is the feast of...
3. The Rosary has ___ mysteries.
4. Concupiscence.... well, you know how to pronounce it.
5. Reposition means, not to move your seat, but...
6. Habemus Papam is the coolest phrase on the planet.
7. You feel they should make an incense scented Glade Plug-In.
8. You've ever genuflected by accident when grabbing a seat at the movies (yup, I did that once).
9. You have Catholic mags in your bathroom book rack.
10. You get excited at the Lamb of God during Mass because Communion is coming!!

Life is too short to be too serious or overly concerned with appearances. Be a Geek, read books, pray on purpose, carry holy cards in your pocketssess to stash on train seats and doctor's offices, laugh for no reason but for the thrill of breathing, or of grass, or the sound of bells (like Quickbeam in the Lord of the Rings). Face it, nerds have more fun. Pax tecum ;)

PS - If you want to take the first step in embracing your Catholic Nerdiness, just copy the badge in this post that I slaved over for like 15 minutes and post it on your blog. Be not afraid!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bringing Up Geeks - An Interview with Marybeth Hicks

In one of my favorite interviews to date, I spoke with Marybeth Hicks, who artfully and passionately stated her mission to "uncool" America. How? By raising up GEEKS - Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids! Listen in as she demystifies the consumer culture and teaches us how to build a real human culture, where persons are more important than possessions, and character is nobler than cash. The podcast of my interview with Marybeth is here. The book is set for release this summer, but visit her website now! About Marybeth Hicks (from the website) Marybeth Hicks began her career in the White House where she scribed special correspondence and talking points for President Ronald Reagan. Today, her writing has shifted to focus on the most important job in the world—being a parent. Author and speaker Marybeth Hicks is the weekly family columnist for The Washington Times, the general interest daily newspaper located in the nation's capital known across the country as “America’s newspaper.” Marybeth’s column “Then again…” appears on the cover of the Family Times section and explores issues and experiences that affect families and shape communities. Marybeth Hicks is also the author of two parenting books. Bringing up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid’s Childhood in a Grow-up-too-fast World (Penguin/Berkley), slated for a July, 2008 release, includes a foreword by child advocate Dr. Kimberly Thompson, founder of Harvard’s Kids Risk project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This is Just Silly

I know I haven't given a real meaty post of late. Well, the Pope was in town, and there was grading, and teaching, and life, and stuff. Lots of stuff actually. So much so that right now at Malvern, while I could be more "productive" with my free period, I decided to squander it. I loafed over to the cafe for some coffee (free for teachers ALL DAY!), then I sauntered over to chapel to sit in the Presence for awhile (which was like a Calgon moment for my soul. Anybody get that allusion?) then I strode past the cherry trees in the front of campus. Then it was all over. He slayeth me once again.

Being the techno-nerd that I am, I took a picture with the sweet iPhone. Now look at this ridiculous amount of beauty; a carpet of violet petals explodes into the slender stalks of daffodils rising up like sentinels from the dark, fertile earth, keeping their vigil before the doors of a chapel where the King of Kings has made His dwelling in the Blessed Eucharist. And I, leaning and loafing at my ease, observed that all this is for our refreshment. It's just silly. It's crazy love. I'm convinced this superfluous Love is what made the worlds and set the galaxies spinning in this Great Dance. Ah Spring! Let's drink it in, for everything is for our good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Behold Your Mother - An Interview on Mary with Heidi Saxton

Today at 5pm EST on the Heart of Things Radio Show on In His Sign Radio, I'll be interviewing Heidi Saxton, editor of “Canticle” magazine and adoptive parent columnist at CatholicMom.com and CatholicExchange.com. A convert to the Catholic Faith, Heidi’s faith journey has taken her all over the world, including West Africa, Poland, and Mexico. She's been active in a variety of Christian churches: Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, Assemblies of God, Episcopalian, and Catholic....

"The diversity of her Christian experience is reflected in her writing, giving her faith expression a vitality and relevance that appeals to truth seekers of all ages and backgrounds. Married in summer 1999, Heidi and her husband Craig adopted their two foster children in 2005. They live in Milan, Michigan. Heidi is a prolific blogger. Her newest blog, “Behold Your Mother” (http://beholdyourmotherbook.blogspot.com/) features a variety of stories, images, and quotes about Mary from all over the world.
- taken from ChristianWord.com

OK, Time to Reflect

Well, he is gone, and honestly, I miss him already. There was a certain lightness in the air just knowing Peter was walking our soil again. Now it's time to get busy reading and reflecting and praying over the Spirit-soaked words that he gave us. And we can trust that God was his guide in the prayerful preparation and study he put into every word.

A wonderful collection of each address of the Pope's has been created and aggregated by Christopher Blosser here -

(http://benedictinamerica.blogspot.com/)

And Amy Welborn has pointed us to another wonderful blog with great insights on the effect of Papa Benedict being with us this past week. It's written by Jen, a former atheist turned Catholic, whom Amy calls "one of the best writers in the Catholic blog world" Here's the link - http://www.conversiondiary.com/2008/04/reason-wonder-and-pope-benedict-xvi.html

So... grab a big cup of coffee, carve out an hour or so, and read on!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Shepherd Speaks

Just a couple of spiritual gems here for you, spoken Wednesday by himself to over 300 of the US bishops:

“Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

AMEN! How often are we taught or coerced into doing just the opposite? Never talking about the "G" word, or mentioning the grace of Jesus? But if the faith we profess is the antidote to the ills of society, is the breath of life that can fill America's smoke-filled lungs, and is the joy that can overthrow the ennui of the culture today, why hide it? Why bury it under a bushel basket and keep that light from liberating and leading others?

On the vocation of marriage, the Pope said "it is essentially an unconditional and unreserved "yes" to life, a "yes" to love, and a "yes" to the aspirations at the heart of our common humanity, as we strive to fulfill our deep yearning for intimacy with others and with the Lord.”

Yes indeed! What a tribute to a vocation some used to see as "less than" the celibate call. But both lead us home and spill out self-giving love all the way! Both bring the power and love of God into the blood, sweat, and tears of life here, now.

Here's a video clip of this address to the bishops. As I watched it, I thought "He doesn't seem real excited.... in fact, he looks wiped." Then I considered the fact that he's 81 years old and being whisked around the planet, speaking, meeting, giving intense talks to religious leaders, diplomats, students, educators, etc. And did he get a chance to get over his jet-lag from Rome yet? What a guy!! May God give him a blast of strength and vigor for the rest of his journey.







(Today, the Pope has a little break, just two main events as posted at the Knights of Columbus site - www.papaltrip.com)

Friday, April 18, 10:45 a.m.
Pope Benedict XVI will address the United Nations, after an early morning flight to New York.

Friday, April 18, 6 p.m.
Prayer service with leaders from other Christian denominations at St. Joseph’s Church, founded by German Catholics, in Manhattan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pope has Landed!

The Knights of Columbus have set up a very nice website following the Pope's historic visit and journey through the USA. You can find it here.

"If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed."

"We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."

- Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wasted in Wisconsin

In the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians (aka Holy Hill) there is a great deal of WASTE. It's scandalous really. A blatant disregard for the earth's resources! Marble vaults and pillars filled with angelic faces and Latin phrases, twists and turns in columns of precious wood and stone high above our heads, glass splintered into a thousand colors and hues in intricate webs of light. What were they thinking? And so much space! Dead air filled with nothing!

Well, nothing but music, and sunlight, and prayers in their heart-spun arc towards the tabernacle. And Love returning, burning and flowing from the altar.

Yes, what a terrible waste love is. What a slap in the face of utilitarianism and frugality. "The money could have been used to feed the poor," we can hear today's Judas' whining. But to waste, to pour out, to squander is the very nature of love.

The ones who built this Holy Hill, this Holy Temple, were kin to that woman of the gospels, who broke the alabaster flask of oil and "wasted" it, pouring it out onto the feet of Jesus. Thank God for her. Thank God for them. May we in our soulless strip malls, opaque office centers, and hollow gymnasium churches learn something from the extravagance of their love.

Above the Clouds

Just landed in Chicago and in the brief 18 minute flight from Milwaukee, a line from St. Therese popped into my head. "Above the clouds, the sky is always blue."

To the cynic, the simplicity of this statwment is almost laughable. To the heart truly awake, it comes polished like sea glass, like a Buddhist koan, or a river stone.

Holy Hill

Wow. I'm heading home from a wonderful weekend at Holy Hill, a
Carmelite Monastery situated on over 400 acres of woodlands in the
hill country of Wisconsin. I was invited to give a couple talks for
the first Young Adult Day. The Shrine is a treasure chest of art and
sculpture and stained glass. I'll get some pics up soon.

So good to know there are sanctuaries like this place in the world,
places dripping with the Presence of the Holy, where we can step away,
refresh and recharge our weary souls. More to come soon!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wisconsin or Bust!

I am presently extremely excited, and 32,000 feet off of the ground. I'm heading for this amazing place called "Holy Hill." It's a Carmelite Monastery situated on over 400 acres of rural countryside in the southeastern part of Wisconsin. Woohoo!

Tomorrow I'll be giving two talks at a conference they are running for young adults. My topic is "Rekindling Our Eucharistic Amazement, Rediscovering Our Mission."

Woohoo yet again!

I really believe there is never a shortage of things to be amazed by. Especially in these days of the incredible blossoming of technology - case in point, I'm typing on a touch keypad on an iPhone while listening to the soundtrack of Dances with Wolves, soaring above billowing shapes of clouds and sipping Sierra Mist. What the heck America!

I know, I know.... I didn't tell you guys about the iPhone yet. I'm so ashamed, and simultaneously elated. I made the fatal mistake of saying it's the "most visually stunning thing I've ever seen"... to my wife Rebecca. She just made that face, that cute face that is actually the most visually stunning thing I've ever seen.

Ahem...so... Where were we? WONDER! Now the irony is, I'll be poking fun at technology in this talk. My point being that we can spend so much time these days staring at screens that we can miss the wonder of the face before us. The sacramental signs that God tosses our way like so many kisses: other people, rain storms, spring flowers, good wine, songs, smells, sights that make the heart weep and we know not why. Can I get an amen? Clearly God calls me to speak about these topics because He really wants me to get the message myself. I find it funny that I have such a fiendish proclivity to technology. I guess you have to know what you're talking about, right? Yessss, precioussss, yessss.

Anyhoo, I hope to post some pictures and ponderings from the shrine. This service made available by technology by the way. Haha! Now let me turn this dang thing off. We just landed in Chicago for a connecting flight, and airports are awesome places to encounter the many-splendoured face of humanity.

New Podcast Up

Finally back in action after a little "technical difficulty," this week's podcast centers on Elizabeth Ficocelli's new book "Lourdes: Font of Faith, Hope & Charity"

"A fascinating look at Lourdes, one of the world's most popular Marian places of pilgrimage. Includes the history of the apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous, the response of the Church, the advent of cures and pilgrimage, and Lourdes today as a powerful center for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. Featuring interviews with the Bishop, Medical Director, and other key personnel of the Sanctuary. Foreword by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, nationally acclaimed scholar, theologian, author, speaker and host of "Sunday Night Live with Father Benedict Groeschel" on EWTN."

Visit Elizabeth's website here and for the book by Joan Carroll Cruzon, "Incorruptibles," mentioned in this podcast, visit Amazon here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Drinking Deeply

On this past Divine Mercy Sunday, sitting in the little church of the Assumption in Maybrook, New York with my wife Rebecca and her parents, two of the eight brothers and sisters, and a mob of nieces and nephews all around us, I got zapped. It was right at the line in the reading from 1 Corinthians 2....

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him."


I looked around at the little munchkins that call me Uncle Bill. I thought of my morning talks with my father-in-law on everything from philosophy to movies to the Faith. I thought of the tremendous love that flows from the Tabernacle, streams down from the Altar and breathes out from from the woman whose hand I held even tighter as this awareness and this awakening came toppling over me like a waterfall.

"Do you want a tissue?" Rebecca asked as the Gospel reading began.
"Heck no," I smiled.

I wanted to feel this a bit longer. It's not every day God gives you the salty taste of joy. In charismatic circles it's called the "gift of tears." I remember an old Irish Christian Brother who once told me, "Let the tears speak, Willy, let the tears speak."

I squeezed Rebecca's hand even tighter. How did I get here? What led me to become a part of this new family? Where was this torrent of love and emotion coming from? I just showed up at Church, part of the ritual of a Sunday. Who knew I'd get zapped?

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him."

In this Cosmic Dance, I find my steps directed here, now. What lies ahead lies in His Heart, what lies behind (and what a long and winding road it seems to me now) lies in His Mercy... His Divine Mercy. So why fear? Why complain? Why do anything but drink deeply from the font of grace in the sacrament of this present moment? God will provide, prepare, and put in our path the things we need, just as we need them.

As I sat there after Communion, in that Divine Bear Hug of He and I in the Eucharist, I thought of that Divine Mercy that has always been so near, ever since the heartaches and the sadness and the longings of my youth. He it was Who moved behind the curtain of my days, shone behind the star I watched outside my window, whispered behind the curtain of great paintings and great writings, from Van Morrison to Vermeer, cathedrals and the cornfields of Northampton. The Divine Mercy is God's own Heart, glowing, breathing, beating with Warm Love behind this earthly veil of flesh and bone, earth and sky, houses, hills, and the people I have come to know in this walk.

In all of this that lies behind and before me I pray.... Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Cooties

These kids deserve Oscars. This is beyond cute and will bring back some memories! At the same time, there's a certain sadness I can't quite nail down... thoughts?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Man Attacked by Flowers Survives, Barely

Thursday night, Rebecca and I made a visit to our local parish church for a little adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. We both recognized that we need to do this more often; to pour out our troubles to the Lord, just as a Hannah did in the Temple so long ago. Funny how I deliberated before we made the decision to just do it. There was the Freshmen retreat to plan, grading, a plane ticket to order for next Saturday, grading, the bug in my podcast that I can't seem to fix, (but I still love you iTunes!) and there was some grading.

In the end we just went to Him, and of course, it was awesome. And that's all He wanted... for us to go, in the midst of our busyness or "tiredness" at the end of a long day; to come to Him when we are weary and heavy-burdened. And guess what... He gave us rest. For just a few minutes, we did nothing but BE with Him, and pray.

One of things I love about the Easter Season is the INSANE amount of flowers that explode into the sanctuaries of churches all over the world after the Resurrection of Christ. The world may hate us and persecute us just as Jesus predicted, but I know that, secretly, at least the florists love us. (I wonder if they intentionally look for shop space next to Catholic churches? They could survive just on lily and poinsettia sales!)

As we knelt down to unpack our hearts before the One Who knows them best, an odoriferous wave of delight poured over us. It was crazy. There were flowers under the altar, over the altar, popping out of the pulpit, pouring out of the pews, climbing up the choir loft... and all of them screaming with pistils and petals waving "Watch out world! He is RISEN!"

So we just drank it in, sniffed it up, basked in the pungent scent of New Life in the Garden of the Resurrection.... and there we prayed for Life... life to the full. We can't wait for kids. CAN'T WAIT. And it brings to mind a line from Blessed Mother Teresa: "Saying there are too many children in the world is like saying there are too many flowers."

In our hearts, as in our church this Easter season, there can never be enough flowers.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Another Sign of the Things to Come...

More beauty breaking open from the cold shells of winter. A tree grows in Malvern Prep's campus near Good Counsel Hall.

I had a funny feeling the story wasn't going to end in that chilling darkness, bleak and drained of the robin's trill and the smell of grass. Life always finds a way, dwelling in darkness and obscurity only for a season.

Such is life... hope for the flowers and all the way up the scale of Being; fresh hope for us wrapped in our winter coats, ready to burst open at just the right time, when the warm breath of the Holy Spirit fills Adam's nostrils again and we are remade.... "Behold, I make all things new."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Spring is Springing!

Keep your eyes open and be sure to take the long way home. Beauty is all around us if we have the eyes to see and the time to kill. And kill time we must in this rat race! Blessed are the slow in traffic for they shall inherit the landscapes! (OK, maybe as a passenger. We don't want any "gaper delays.")